New round of preparations for UN summit on sustainable development opens next week

New round of preparations for UN summit on sustainable development opens next week

A new round of preparations for a major United Nations forum on sustainable development will get under way next week in New York to lay the groundwork for a review of progress since a landmark UN conference in Rio de Janeiro a decade ago.

The two-week session of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) will open at UN Headquarters on 28 January, bringing together representatives from UN Member States, UN agencies and programmes, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other partners to work towards a final agenda of the upcoming forum.

The Summit, scheduled to run from 26 August to 4 September in Johannesburg, is a 10-year follow-up to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development or "Earth Summit", and will be a forum for countries to agree on concrete steps and quantifiable targets for putting into practice the objectives adopted a decade ago.

In Rio, countries defined a clear agenda for sustainable development – a delicate balance between economic, environmental and social requirements – called Agenda 21. Since then, advances have been slower than anticipated, success in the fight against poverty has been limited, and the world’s environment has continued to deteriorate. Newer issues, such as globalization, changes in the financing system, the impact of new technologies and the spread of HIV/AIDS, have also changed the global context.

“The real challenge of sustainable development is to help countries secure the economic growth with social equity they so desperately need to alleviate poverty, while protecting and preserving the environment,” said Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which is one of the largest funders of sustainable development worldwide. According to its estimates, the agency has spent approximately $4 billion on environment and sustainable energy projects and an additional $2 billion in parallel funding.

“There is no quick fix,” Mr. Malloch Brown added. “But a key first step for governments is building the capacity and identifying and implementing the policies and partnerships better to put into practice the important principles agreed a decade ago at Rio.”